Ex-Embry Riddle boss builds Dubai av school

 - November 11, 2007, 7:24 PM

The need for qualified people is about the only constraint to growth in the booming air transport markets of the Middle East and Asia, and the fact that DAE University was the first of Dubai Aerospace Enterprise’s six business units to get a chief executive reflects that reality.

Dr. George Ebbs, the university’s president and CEO, had retired after seven years as president of Florida’s Embry Riddle University in 2005. DAE formed in February last year, and within months had recruited him to establish its university. He arrived here with his family in August, and by the end of the year had seven staff. Now he oversees 57, with more to come, and in September the first 21 undergraduates started their courses.

One of the two inaugural courses is a bachelor’s degree in business administration. The other is a first-of-its-kind bachelor’s in flight and aviation management that follows three years of specialized academic study with an intensive one-year flight training course. Graduates will leave with a JAA frozen air transport license and a type rating, ready to start flying with any of the fast-growing airlines in the region and with the management skills needed to manage airlines and other aviation organizations.

In 2011 the university plans to move to its own purpose-built residential campus at Dubai World Central. Talking to AIN at his temporary headquarters in the Dubai Men’s College that forms part of the Emirate’s embryonic Academic City, Ebbs said the first batch of students represents 14 different nationalities. Many are sons or, in three cases, daughters of expats living here, but five are Emirati nationals, and Ebbs hopes to be able to maintain that proportion of locals as the student population grows toward a projected 3,000 by 2020. He expects most students to come from the Gulf, the Indian subcontinent and North Africa.

“There is nothing like DAE University,” Ebbs said, comparing the school to Cranfield University in the UK, Singapore Aviation Academy and engineering schools in India. Training schools for such aviation disciplines as meteorology and air traffic management can be found here in Dubai, in Qatar and in Jordan, and there are flight schools in the region, too. “But none is really designed to do what industry requires; there is no academic education,” he said. “And DAE has big ambitions. It needs people and we are part of that vision.”

The fast-paced growth that Dubai has come to symbolize should see 300 more students enrolling next fall, when four more bachelor’s courses will be offered along with four two-year master’s programs.

By then the DAE flight academy should be operational in Ras Al Khaimah, where a disused air base is being remodeled for the purpose. Jet training will be offered after ab initio training. Ebbs expects operations to start in the first quarter.